Aug 20 2013

Monterey Bay trawling deal hailed as a breakthrough: Fishermen, environmentalists long at odds

A “lava-in-water” effort to redefine trawling boundaries off the Central Coast may prove a turning point in the long-simmering relationship among commercial fishermen, environmentalists and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The groups spent nearly a year negotiating a proposal that identifies areas the Pacific Fisheries Management Council should reopen and close to bottom fishing in the sanctuary. It was a task, participants said, that took its toll and tested the mettle of individual patience.

“There were times in it where everybody was pretty much fed up and ready to walk away, especially when the environmental groups got involved,” said Monterey fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi II.

“This was like mixing lava with water,” he said. “We had stuff boiling everywhere. We had to stop meetings and everybody go out and cool off.”

In the end, they came up with the hallmark of a good compromise: nobody got everything he wanted.

Sanctuary Superintendent Paul Michel described the outcome as a “precedent-setting, historic accomplishment.”

The “Essential Fish Habitat” boundaries were last set in 2006. Research since then identified new areas of coral and sponge that needed critical protection, said Michel.

At the same time, fishermen were unhappy with the hop-scotch effect of the boundaries. They were spending less time fishing than they were picking up and putting back nets to avoid protected areas.

“We just wanted to get some of our traditional places back that were just sand and mud,” said Pennisi. “Oceana just wanted real estate. They got back a lot more than what they gave up.”

Still, the third-generation fisherman credited the sanctuary’s Karen Grimmer, Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer and Huff McGonigal of the Environmental Defense Fund for guiding the combatants to a “common goal” — more fish.

The proposal was submitted to the fisheries council July 31. That agency will submit its recommendation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for final approval, a process that could take two years.

Geoff Shester of Oceana said the process was so encouraging that his group, historically at odds with fishermen, is hoping to reach a future consensus that would open trawling to prized parts of Monterey Bay, which sits in state waters, in exchange for additional closures in federal waters.

Read the full article here.

Two 70-foot trawling-style boats are docked in Moss Landing. (VERN FISHER/Herald file)

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